Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The One and Only Ivan

Title: The One and Only Ivan
Author: Katherine Applegate
Grade Level: Grades 3-5
Publisher: Harper Collins
Element 5: Raising Awareness


Resource I
Resource II

Based on the true story, Ivan is a Silverback gorilla who lives in a shopping mall, on display with an older elephant, Stella and a stray dog. He doesn't remember much about his life, until a baby elephant named Ruby enters the mall. Stella cares for Ruby, and the older elephant helps Ivan realize that the way they are living isn't proper for animals. Ivan makes Stella a promise he has to keep, so he paints pictures to make the humans aware of how they are treated and the conditions they live in and that Ruby needs to go to a zoo, where she will be well taken care of and in plenty of space.

Representation of the Social Justice Issue:
I think this book represents the social justice issue of raising awareness, because that becomes Ivan's one goal. He learns about something that is "unjust" and wants people to know about this issue as well. It was especially inspiring, because Ivan is a gorilla and he raised awareness through his paintings. Hopefully, students will see the difference a gorilla made in raising awareness about a cause he believed in, so they will believe they can raise awareness about the things they feel are important too.

In Class Use:
I would have students look up different organizations that exist to promote the positive treatment of animals. We could look them up in class, see the different organizations, what each organization does, and have groups present their organization to the class. Once we know the focus and direction of each organization, as a class we could decide if there is anything we feel we need to raise awareness of. We could make posters, write a letter, make a video commercial, or small booklets. This presents a broad opportunity to not only raise awareness, but for students to utilize different types of creative venues to communicate their new knowledge.

This is a great resource, because it is a very untraditional story. When students think of books they have read about raising awareness for a cause, maybe the usual things that come to mind are the civil rights movements, or women's rights. But this book presents a whole new way to look at raising awareness. Raising awareness doesn't need to be a country wide issue, or something that alters history. It simply means, being an advocate for something you believe in. And if students can learn that, from a gorilla simply painting pictures, I think they will hold onto that for life.

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